When the pandemic hit and we began spending more time inside, many folks hoped they’d have more time to prioritize sleep. But somehow, it seems like we’re collectively getting less sleep than ever before.
How many nights have you found yourself staying awake later than you should because you’re mindlessly scrolling through your phone for a hit of dopamine (your “feel good” hormone) or binge-watching Netflix? It’s not uncommon. In fact, what you’re doing even has a name — revenge bedtime procrastination.
According to Abhinav Singh, medical adviser at the Sleep Foundation, revenge bedtime procrastination is the “voluntary delaying of sleep time, often by an individual with a very busy daily schedule with a lack of leisure or free time.”
“Revenge is typically in response to the busy day that they have had, and sleep is sacrificed to free up time for recreational activities,” Singh said, noting that this has seemingly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It makes sense: Many of us are burned out and hitting a pandemic wall. We’re navigating work, remote learning and caregiving (and sometimes all of the above) during a global health crisis. We’re tired, traumatized and just trying to make it through the day. That could lead to us grabbing back our lost free time in protest ― even if it is late at night.
While it’s tempting to put off going to sleep to steal back a few moments for ourselves, it’s not the best thing for your health. Singh said revenge bedtime procrastination can ultimately lead to chronic sleep deprivation — which can have immediate and long-term effects on your well-being. Sacrificing sleep is like taking a very high-interest loan with steep payments in the form of poor productivity, mood, cognition and more.
When it comes to short-term effects, Singh said, individuals will often have a hard time waking up, appear sleepy during the day and find themselves increasing caffeine consumption to compensate.
“People who are sleep-deprived can be irritable, forgetful, anxious, and may make poorer food choices,” he explained. “Obesity, diabetes, cardiac disorders, high blood pressure, mood disorders like anxiety and depression have all been linked to chronic sleep loss. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased mortality.”
So how do you quit this habit and get better rest while still taking time for yourself? Here are a few expert tips:
Take daytime naps.
Ryan Fiorenzi, founder of Start Sleeping and a certified sleep coach, said taking short naps during your workday, if possible, can be helpful to ward off revenge bedtime procrastination.
“Take a 15-20 minute nap before 2 p.m. to make up some of your sleep deficit, which will help you control yourself at night,” he said. “To make sure that you don’t sleep more than 20 minutes, set your alarm for 20 minutes, which will allow you 5 minutes to fall asleep and 15 minutes for a nap.”
It’s important to try to keep the naps under 20 minutes because any longer and “you will start to go into a deeper stage of sleep which will leave you feeling groggy when you wake up and may make it harder to fall asleep at night,” Fiorenzi said.
Turn the lights out.
Changing the lighting can help signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down; turn off any bright lights in your home in the evening.
This also applies to adjusting the lighting on your phone, which emits blue light that can mess with your sleep. If you’re going to use your phone, make sure to change the settings at night so it uses less blue light.
Put pen to paper before your head hits the pillow.
According to Leigha Saunders, a sleep expert, naturopathic doctor and founder of True Roots Healthcare, another great way to beat revenge bedtime procrastination is by journaling or “mind-dumping.”
“This can be as simple as writing out your to-do’s, listing or describing your thoughts and feelings from the day, or expressing gratitude,” she said. “Writing our thoughts is a different cognitive process that allows us to more effectively decompress at the end of the day than just cycling in our own thoughts.”
Create a calming bedtime ritual that has nothing to do with your phone.
Make it as indulgent or relaxing as possible, whether that’s taking a long bath, reading a good book, doing an elaborate skin care routine, eating some dark chocolate or trying some yoga. The key is creating a routine that you look forward to each night ― and doing it away from your devices.
“Ultimately, trading screen time for self-care is going to make you welcome your bedtime, not [take] revenge against it,” Saunders said.